Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi is leading scorer in La Liga with 33 goals this season Reuters

Gareth Bale hit a sublime equaliser for Real Madrid against champions Barcelona, who survived playing with 10 men for 45 minutes to move to within three games of going the entire La Liga season undefeated.

Sergi Roberto was shown a straight red card with the score 1-1 at the end of the first half of an ill-tempered El Clasico after he appeared to slap Real defender Marcelo.

Roberto had earlier provided the cross for an unmarked Luis Suarez to fire the hosts into the lead before Cristiano Ronaldo bundled the equaliser after Karim Benzema’s downward header.

Lionel Messi put the champions 2-1 ahead on the counter-attack only for Bale to level with a sweetly struck first-time finish.

Real’s Ronaldo was substituted at half-time after suffering an ankle sprain while scoring.

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo joined Alfredo di Stefano as joint all-time Real Madrid top-scorer in El Clasico in all competitions after scoring his 18th goal in the fixture \ EPA

Barca on the brink of history

This draw felt like a win for Barcelona, who stay 15 points ahead of their arch-rivals despite Roberto’s dismissal.

Champions League finalists Real have now failed to beat Barca in the past four league attempts and their frustrations increased when they were denied a clear penalty after Jordi Alba caught Marcelo.

The tone for another bad-tempered game between these two giants was set when Real refused to give Barca a guard of honour after Ernesto Valverde’s side secured a 25th La Liga title last weekend.

Instead Valverde and his backroom team lined up to applaud the players off the pitch at the end of a match littered with eight yellow cards.

No team in the modern era of La Liga has managed to go through an entire season undefeated yet Barca are now 270 minutes away from achieving that feat.

They still have to negotiate home games against Villarreal and Real Sociedad, along with an away match against Levante, but it will require something special to end their 42-match unbeaten league record stretching 13 months.

Bale comes to Real’s rescue

Once again there was no shortage of talking points after another fascinating game between Spain’s two most successful teams.

Andres Iniesta received a standing ovation when he was substituted in the second half in his 38th and final Clasico while Ronaldo’s injury, three weeks before Real meet Liverpool in Kiev, is a concern.

Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale has scored eight goals in his past nine games for club and country \ BBC Sport

Bale was anonymous for long spells and can consider himself fortunate to have still been on the pitch when he equalised.

The Welshman had already escaped yellow cards for hacking at Iniesta’s ankle and a late ugly challenge on Samuel Umtiti before he was eventually cautioned for bringing down substitute Nelson Semedo.

His goal was a sumptuous finish with his left foot which comfortably beat Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

Man of the match – Luis Suarez (Barcelona)

Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez scored his 24th league goal of the season before robbing Raphael Varane to tee-up Lionel Messi to fire Barca ahead. A hard-working display by the Uruguay forward \ BBC Sport

‘Team did a spectacular job’ – what they said

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde:

It would have hurt to lose to Madrid, or any other team. I think we are the only unbeaten team in Europe in the big leagues and that is something that pushes us.

It was clearly a difficult match to referee. I am not sure about the red card for Sergi Roberto, he might have raised his hand but I do not think it was worthy of a red, maybe because I know him.

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez:

It’s tough playing down a man, especially against Madrid. But the team did a spectacular job, physically.

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta:

I am doing everything possible so I can play these last few games and I’m trying to absorb them.

Three matches remain, they are the last ones, it seems that the end never comes but we have won the league already and I will try to enjoy every minute.